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SustAIn: Sustainability Index for Artificial Intelligence

Jens Ohlig and Friederike Rohde

Will algorithms solve the problem of climate change? Unlikely. But more data lets us monitor the earth, optimize solar panels, and generally understand problems. But is it sustainable? What about the click workers that do the magic behind shiny AI toys? And don't data centers use a lot of energy, too? Is there a way to measure a sustainability score for automated decision making that won't burn the planet, create a livable society for all humans and still won't make us poor? We're working on it. Let's talk!

SustAIn is a project by AlgorithmWatch, DAI-Labor TU Berlin, and IÖW Intitut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung, funded by the Federal ministry of environment in Germany.

With the SustAIn project, we will explore the sustainability impact of AI technologies and systems and work out their potential for our world – for example, through less resource consumption, fair working conditions or sustainable consumption. Our approach to sustainability is based on the 3 Nested Dependencies Model, which prioritizes the environmental, social, and economic pillars of sustainability. Sustainable economic development can only take place in a socially just society and both are dependent on the protection of planetary boundaries. In addition, SustAIn draws on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN member states in 2015.

To encourage public and policy debates on the topic, we will create a sustainability index for AI systems to serve as a rating system. With our Sustainable AI Labs, we will work with developers to create guidelines for sustainable AI development and come up with policy recommendations.

Contact us at: Friederike Rohde , Jens Ohlig